Leader Circles Help Forge a New Blueprint for Ministry
District Superintendent Joe Fort is grouping pastors into clergy “peer groups” to build stronger friendships and greater accountability for ministry.
“I’ll tell you what’s a big motivator for me,” says Todd Jordan, pastor of Caldwell First UMC, “it’s knowing my group is going to ask me about something I said I was going to do by the time we have our next meeting.” Todd, a facilitator of one of five Leader Circles in the West District, is grateful for the leadership of District Superintendent Joe Fort for having the foresight to create clergy peer groups that meet regularly to discuss their “Blueprint for Ministry.”
“Five groups, with about eight pastors each, have been meeting for several years now, and we look forward to our time together because it has proven to be very beneficial to talk things through, strengthen our covenant relationships with each other and deepen our spiritual development with that added layer of accountability,” he adds.
Joe was inspired to form these groups after reading Bill Kemp’s book, Ezekiel’s Bones, and has invited Bill to West District meetings on several occasions. “If we are not careful, we can let complexity creep into our ministry lives,” notes Joe, “so I felt it would be helpful to establish a simplified Blueprint for Ministry that could serve as a reminder that ministry boils down to just five key areas: prayer, engagement with God’s word, meaningful worship, a heart for missions and personal evangelism.”
These Leadership Circles meet about five times a year for roughly 90 minutes and focus on one of the key ministry focus areas. At each gathering two questions are asked: 1) how am I personally living out this spiritual value and 2) How is my congregation seeking to lift up this spiritual value in our congregational life? “The whole group is encouraged to offer each other constructive feedback and to brainstorm suggestions, based on the unique needs of congregational size and culture. Leaders make notes on the action items requiring follow up, and always encourage ample time for group prayer.”
About 40 of the district’s 65 pastors are involved in the Leader Circles. “I find it challenging on a personal level and as a leader,” adds Todd. “Through these discussions, I’ve realized there are some things in both my personal life and congregational life that we could do better. We discuss obstacles to these five central components and ways each of us deal with them, and it has been so effective and engaging that we all make it a point to attend as often as we can.”
Vision for the future
“Commitment to the blueprint components is the way to becoming a strong spiritual leader for the congregation,” says Joe, “and that involves calling these disciplines to mind in church settings on a regular basis, studying and discussing them to instill them in everyone’s mind.” He believes these are the avenues that Christ uses through the power of the Holy Spirit to breathe life into congregations. Adds Joe, “One size blueprint does not fit all churches, but when these windows are open, God can move into and build up the church.”
For information on how to start Leadership Circles in your district, contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org.